Friday, February 18, 2005

Review: poverty nor riches

Neither Poverty Nor Riches: A Biblical Theology of Material Possessions
Craig L. Blomberg
Eerdmans, 1999, pb, 300pp
“Find out where your treasure is and there you’ll find your heart. . . . You can’t serve God and stuff at the same time.” (Matthew 6:21,24b)
And God himself knows must of us have a lot of stuff, especially when we’re compared not just to the neighbors in our subdivision, but to all our neighbors in the world. That fact alone, when considered in connection with what Jesus said in Matthew 6, ought to make everyone who calls themselves a follower of Jesus call to sit up and take notice. If there’s anything that could easily get between us and God, Jesus said it plainly - it very well could be our money and/or our stuff.

Which means, in sum, I really need to think hard, study hard, consider hard and pray hard about – not just work hard for and play hard with – money. That is, if I want to please Jesus and be with God forever.

And I know of no other guide to help you in that reflection than Craig Blomberg’s book I’ve just finished – Neither Poverty Nor Riches.

Blomberg is a Christian scholar whose work in the Gospels, in particular, is internationally recognized as first-rate, and this book will surely only underscore that reputation. Comprehensive (covering Genesis to Revelation as well as the time between the testaments), careful and clear, this book can be read by many and yet lacks nothing in terms of scholarly depth. You’ll certainly find easier books to read, but not because he discusses the subject in words you can’t understand, but because you’ll understand them quite well. He pulls no punches and challenges us to hear afresh what the book say about bucks. Take the following two quotes from just one page (p.145) as examples:
“The only way God’s people can consistently obey all of his commands is as the entire Christian community worldwide, and any local expression of it, increasingly captures the vision of sharing its resources with the needy in its midst.”

“It goes too far to say that one cannot be rich and be a disciples of Jesus, but what never appears in the Gospels are well-to-do followers of Jesus who are not simultaneously generous in almsgiving and in divesting themselves of surplus wealth for the sake of those in need.”
Still not clear enough? Let’s get personal:
“The greatest transfer of wealth in human history has begun, from the post-war generation of the West to its heirs, and it will continue in the next decade or two. Will the heir’s newly acquired money go merely to fuel the greatest round of consumer spending ever or simply to pay off the massive indebtedness that has already been accrued, or will we recover a biblical perspective on stewardship of material possessions?

‘Give me neither poverty nor riches,’ prayed the writer of the proverb; but, since most of us already have riches, we need to be praying more often, ‘and help me be generous and wise in giving more of those riches away.’ (p.253)
See what I mean?
Would that every Christian - certainly every Christian leader, preacher and teacher – carefully read and study this book and share it with others. More entertaining books can be found on the subject of money and Christian faith, but there are none more Biblical, truthful and enlightening. In short, I simply can’t imagine teaching on the subject of money and the Bible without consulting Neither Poverty Nor Riches. The most faithful guide available for my heart to find the Bible’s truth on this topic it is indeed.